Virgil van Dijk has “everything”, says former coach Pieter Huistra, with the Liverpool defender already better than Nemanja Vidic was and a serious contender for the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
The Netherlands international has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence over the last 18 months.
He was already established as a Premier League star during his days at Southampton, but a record-breaking £75 million ($95m) move to Anfield has seen Van Dijk join the global elite.
His presence is credited with having turned Liverpool into Premier League title challengers and Champions League winners, while he has also become captain of his country.
Huistra, who worked with the 27-year-old at Groningen, believes Van Dijk can now be considered a more complete player than Vidic – who spent eight memorable years at Manchester United.
“I’m biased anyway, so I would choose Virgil. He has more, he has a little bit more,” Huistra told talkSPORT.
“Vidic, of course, without any doubt was a very good player, he played in a top team.
“In my view, Virgil has everything. He has the flair, he has the technique, he has the passing, he has the defensive leadership, he has the personality that catches people’s eye.
“I just admire the strengths of certain players.
“There have been very good defenders in the Premier League and when you [Van Dijk] are talked about in that group of players, then it’s a good honour.”
Van Dijk’s efforts across the 2018-19 campaign, which also included a Nations League final appearance with the Netherlands, have seen him become the PFA Player of the Year.
There could be more prestigious individual prizes to come, with the Dutchman expected to challenge the likes of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or.
“He’s one of the contenders. There are always other players as well, but he should certainly be considered,” Huistra said of Van Dijk’s claims to the title of best player on the planet.
“A defender is often overlooked, but defending is a very important part of football. Attacking always starts from the defenders. Virgil is important in that, he can direct from the back.
“I always said to my central defenders, ‘you’re always the playmakers of the team, you decide how the attack will start’.
“So if you have a defender like Virgil, who is quick and direct and has a good diagonal pass or a pass in behind the opposition, it’s very effective and important.”